Folsom’s Daredevil Spirit Shouldn’t Extend to Your DIY Heat Pump Repairs

diy heat pump repair folsomFolsom, with its open spaces and temperate Mediterranean climate, is a great place for folks who love the outdoors, no matter the time of year. In fact, a friend of mine who likes to mountain bike says that Folsom’s Salmon Falls Mountain Bike Trail, which runs through the Folsom Lake Rec Area, is even better in the winter. There’s less traffic, and, if it’s rained recently, there are impressive views of water tumbling over Salmon Falls. It’s a risky ride, but it’s worth the payoff.

Those risks, however, are best taken outdoors. One hazard I see homeowners taking too often is DIY heat pump repair. Trying to fix your own heat pump, or even tinkering with a heat pump, is a complex and dangerous process. Before you get into it, it’s important to know what sorts of peril you’re facing. Chances are that once you do, you may reconsider the task altogether, saving your daredevil spirit for all those famous Folsom mountain biking trails.

Folsom’s Climate Makes Heat Pumps Ideal

As I mentioned above, Folsom, like many of the areas we serve, has a Mediterranean climate—very hot summers and moderate winters. Living in a spot with mild winters means different home heating options are available to us. A heat pump, for example, is a fantastic option in cities where the temperatures rarely dip into the 30s. And in Folsom, there are only two months out of the year when the average low temperature dips under 40: December and January.

What does the outside temperature have to do with your heat pump? Rather than running on combustible fuels like natural gas, heat pumps run on electricity, which is cheaper and more energy efficient, because, rather than create heat, they extract it from the air. See, even when air seems cold, it still has heat in it.

Think of a heat pump as a guide for the warmth naturally present in the air around us. It pulls cold air in from outside, extracts its heat, and pumps the warmth into your house. I’ve talked in the past about the viability of a hybrid heat pump and propane system, which taps a propane heater to help whenever the temperature outside dips below 40, and that’s a good option, too for Folsom homeowners. Just know that once you have a heat pump installed, you should be hands off. No DIY daredevils allowed.

DIY Daredevils Beware of the Heat Pump

So, we know folks who live in Folsom are adventurous and that Folsom’s climate makes it an ideal place to have a heat pump. But here is where I want to stress that combining those two things and becoming a daredevil when it comes to DIY heat pump repair or installation is going to put even the most skilled homeowner at a bit of a risk, for four reasons:

  1. Risk of shock: Unlike a traditional furnace, which is powered by the chemical combustion that results from burning fuels like natural gas, a heat pump is powered entirely by electricity. Any professional HVAC technician will tell you that repairing or installing a heat pump almost always involves opening up the cabinet and working with the wires, which puts you at risk for a shock, especially if you’ve never worked with wiring before.
  2. Expensive testing: Like I said earlier, heat pumps are complex pieces of equipment. I don’t know how many jobs I’ve done where it’s taken me longer than I expected to determine the exact cause of a heat pump blowing cool air or failing to start. And I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a DIY job where the homeowner knew how to run these tests. The thing is, it often takes specialized diagnostic equipment, which costs thousands of dollars, to get the real answers. I’m sure you’d much rather save that money to shop at Folsom’s outlet mall.
  3. Water damage and mold: The thing about heat pumps is they work during all times of the year. Your heat pump is used to both warm and cool your home, and, as with any piece of AC technology, that means it has a condenser that requires water or refrigerant. Leaks of these substances from your heat pump or the related HVAC parts around it can cause serious damage to your home, as well as mold that can make you and your family sick. In other words, you really don’t want a miniature Folsom Lake forming in your walls. I wouldn’t risk it. HVAC professionals take special precautions to avoid causing leaks, while DIY repair jobs usually don’t.
  4. Damaged ductwork: Like a traditional furnace, a heat pump requires ductwork to bring the heated air into your home. If ductwork isn’t installed correctly, there will be leaks, and, as I’ve talked about in the past, leaky ducts are terrible for heating your home—the hot and cold air coming from the pump will be lost in your walls or other spaces where you don’t want it, making your heat pump overwork. If you try to do your own heat pump repairs or installation, you’ll likely have to access your ductwork at some point, putting yourself at risk of accidentally punching holes in the ducts, or failing to properly reseal them. An overworked heat pump will either run your electricity bill way up or break sooner than you expected. Either way, the money you saved attempting a DIY job here will end up coming right back out of your wallet, and then some, when your energy bill arrives.

There are a lot of risks to opening up the heat pump in your HVAC system and attempting to tinker with it yourself, including shock, leaks and just plain misunderstandings about the real source of the problem. I get the impulse to try and save some money with DIY repairs, especially if you’re the type that likes to take risks. However, I’d really like to stress to you that they’re best kept on the mountain bike trails around Folsom and away from your heat pump. Make your home a safe zone where you can unwind after you’ve survived the winter trails and call a local professional instead.

Save the risks for mountain biking. Skip the DIY work and contact the trained professionals at Bell Brothers for problems with your heat pump.